A convicted former Nigerian governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has hired a 12-man team of lawyers, to secure his release from jail, after his trial and conviction was recently quashed by the country’s Supreme Court.
Among the hired 12 lawyers are six Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), commissioned to secure his release from prison after it suffered delay since after he was freed by the Supreme Court May 8.
Kalu, was still recognised as the Senate’s Chief Whip, even, while serving a 12-year jail term at the Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja, for looting N7.65 billion belonging to the Abia State Government during his eight years in office, when he served as the governor of the state.
The former governor had filed a motion on notice on May 12 at the Federal High Court in Lagos, asking for his freedom.
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It was learnt the case has been assigned to Justice Mohammed Liman, to avoid the technical error committed by Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu last December 5, while he was a Justice of the Court of Appeal.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Kalu for stealing N7.5 billion public funds, and Justice Idris convicted him on each of the 39 counts brought against him.
Also, he found Kalu, his firm, Slok Nigeria Ltd, and co-defendants who was a former Abia State Director of Finance and Accounts during Kalu’s tenure, Udeh Udeogu, guilty on all counts.
Ude was sentenced to 10- year jail term, but the Supreme Court equally set him free after declaring the trial a nullity for want of jurisdiction.
Kalu, in his motion on notice against the Federal Government, seeks to set aside his trial and conviction, in the motion, for Charge No FHC ABJ/CR 56/2007, signed by Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN on behalf of 11 other lawyers.
Others are: Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN; Awa Kalu SAN; Chris Uche SAN; Dr. U. Olatoke, SAN; Chef H.O Alolabi, SAN; Sylvester Elema SAN; Ikoro N. A. Ikoro; Omosanya Popoola; C. Obidike; Nnamdi Awa Kalu; Vivien Udora and A S. Amire.
In pursuant to Section 180 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), the lawyers argued that no legal basis exists for Kalu’s continued incarceration because the Supreme Court on May 8 declared his trial a nullity and freed his co-defendant Jones Udeogu.
Kalu, has, however, prayed the court for four reliefs:
“An order setting aside the judgment of this Honourable Court dated the 5 day of December, 2019, under the hand of Hon Justice M.B. Idris, JCA the same having been given without jurisdiction:
“An order setting aside the trial and conviction of the Applicant – The order of conviction having been made without jurisdiction
“An order setting aside the sentence passed on each of the counts as applicable to the Applicant in the 39-count charge in charge No: FHC ABJ/CR 56/2007 – the sentences having been imposed without jurisdiction.
“An order directing that the Applicant be released forthwith, from the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service Kuje Abuja FCT.”
It was gathered the motion will be heard before the end of May, but the day will be communicated to the parties.
In the motion filed, Kalu also canvassed five grounds upon which the application was brought thus: That he and his co-defendants “were tried and convicted at the Federal High Court by Justice Idris who in the course of trial was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
“The learned trial judge who conducted the trial has been held to have acted without jurisdiction in Suit No: SC.62C/2019 Udeh Jones Udeogu V Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Supreme Court decision dated the day of May. 2020
“The unassailable position of the law is that any judicial proceedings conducted without jurisdiction – no matter how well conducted – is a nullity
“The joint trial of the Applicant with the 2nd and 3rd Defendants/Respondents having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court, entities the Applicant to a release from his custodial sentence.”